Resources for churches planning their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. That was the topic of an online conversation today by the Jesus Collective church network. Here are some helpful notes.
Lots of church groups are sharing advice online about how to respond during the COVID-19 pandemic. I attended a webinar today by the Jesus Collective church network, which has connections with the Anabaptist megachurch The Meeting House. Lots of helpful things were said by a variety of people, and as I was typing up my notes I thought the ideas were too good not to share.
All credit goes to the folks who organized this event, and I'll be sure to add links to their recording and resource page as soon as they become available. Update: Recording of conversation now available on the Jesus Collective Podcast channel on iTunes and Spotify.
I don't claim these to be direct quotes of what everyone said – some of it are ideas that came to my mind while I listened. There was also a powerful time of prayer at the meeting which I didn't take notes on. :) Please contact the Faith Today editors for any corrections.
Bruxy Cavey, The Meeting House, Oakville, Ont.
In this challenging time, let's remember the image Jesus gave of himself as a mother hen ready to gather his people under his wings. Unlike the “you were not willing” mentioned in the Bible, we are willing. We are called to “restful work,” we rest in Jesus which enables us to calmly serve others without overextending ourselves. The church was made for situations like this pandemic. The church is all about being practically compassionate.
George Bedlion, Whitewater Church, Puyallup, Wash.
What does the church do when our buildings and programs are at stake? We turn them inside out so that they serve our neighbours instead of ourselves. For example, a youth group becomes a service group, not so much mutual care group. Did we use our assets during a crisis to take care of ourselves or did we use them to help our neighbours?
We need to be conscious of our role as a scattered church not a gathering, and support especially our doctors, politicians, businesspeople, etc. in their secular work. Contact leaders in church community and local community and say you are praying for them and ask them what they need, saying the church wants to support them. Commission some church members to form a team focused on blessing the local community. The messaging is not only “We church members will pull together for each other” but also from the start must be “And we’ll go out to serve our neighbours.” The youth are off school and board – what creative way can you include them in service planning and action? If your neighbourhood has an app that people use for local help and shopping, get members to post messages on it of offers to assist in whatever ways.
Tara Beth Leach, First Church of the Nazarene, Pasadena, Calif.
We must be wise stewards. Some say maybe 40% of churches won’t survive this pandemic for financial reasons and otherwise. But we need to act not out of anxiety, we protect the vulnerable. The church can be a place that works with government, a point where people sign up to volunteer to help neighbours or for the vulnerable to register their needs. When some Christians complain about government restrictions and urge churches to meet defiantly anyways because God will take care of us, we need to guide them to recognize overspiritualization can be irresponsible.
This summer will be a time of heightened spiritual sensitivity for many nonbelievers, a great opportunity, and we should look forward to major revivals in the fall when the curfews are lifted.
Joshua Hinman, Newlife Church on the Peninsula, Silverdale, Wash.
We don’t need to wait until the curfews are lifted. Let’s aim to double the number of our small groups right now. Everyone needs community now. We need to cooperate across denominations. We need to show generosity, not fear and hoarding. He’s looking to cut his church budget by 25% (savings partly comes from less meeting expenses such as rented worship spaces) and reallocate that to helping community needs at this time.
Arrange a phone tree to call everyone you have phone numbers for at least once a week to check in how they are doing. If you have young people calling, make a script because some of them are not used to leaving messages when there’s no answer and you need them to.
- We can reschedule Easter in a sense, celebrating it a second time this fall if we want to.
- Now’s the time to offer marriage counselling resources and support parents who are suddenly work-at-home multitasking homeschoolers.
- Create a rotation of church groups to hold virtual devotions on Facebook Live for the congregation. (Give them a shopping list of recommended equipment.)
- Encourage small groups to keep meeting virtually, give them instructions how to use the tech.
- Keep all communications simple and concise. People have information overload.
- Partner with other churches, reach out to smaller churches with aging demographics and maybe little tech expertise. Invite such a pastor to use your recording/broadcasting facilities to preach live or record for their people.
- A resource for communities with a lot of addicts and poverty is the Saddleback Peace Plan.
- Key action even for any small church: Call the mayor and school superintendent, tell them you and your church support them and are ready to help in whatever way they need. “We’ve got your back. We’re not separate from the community.”
- In the UK midwives can no longer have appointments in hospitals, so churches are offering them space to meet with their clients.
- Tell foodbank supporters who may be unable to drop off donations that they can make purchases of food on Amazon and have Amazon deliver the food to the foodbank. toronto.ctvnews.ca/this-is-an-absolutely-critical-time-food-bank-puts-up-tent-to-ensure-food-donations-amid-covid-19-1.4855037
- example of innovative neighbourhood outreach www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/news-story/9909455-toilet-paper-left-at-doorsteps-wellanders-show-neighbourly-love-in-fearful-times/
- for churches who don’t have electronic giving, an easy way to start is on Facebook socialgood.fb.com/charitable-giving/
- Whitewater Church (Washington State) community care plan download from www.whitewaterchurch.org/new-cover-page
- Simple care form promoted by Pasadena church to its people and neighbours, asking them to register as either in need of help or able to offer help paznaz.elexiochms.com/external/form/6db82b1f-ff12-4ea2-9465-78969b50577d
- See jesuscollective.com/covid-19resources for a download: Jesus, the Church and the Coronavirus
- The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada will regularly update a list of recommended resources at TheEFC.ca/COVID-19